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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 9

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-7


Genesis 9:1

And GodElohim, not because belonging to the Elohistic document (Block, Tuch, Colcnso); but rather because throughout this section the Deity is exhibited in his relations to his creatures—blessed—a repetition of the primal blessing rendered necessary by the devastation of the Flood (cf. Genesis 1:28)—Noah and his sons,—as the new heads of the race,—and said unto them,—audibly, in contrast to Genesis 8:21, Genesis 8:22, which was not addressed to the patriarch, but spoken by God to himself in his heart, as if internally resolving on his subsequent course of action,—Be fruitful, and multiply. A favorite expression of the Elohist (cf. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 8:17; Genesis 9:1, Genesis 9:7; Genesis 17:20; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 47:27; Genesis 48:14), (Tuch); but

(1) the apparently great number of passages melts away when we observe the verbally exact reference of Genesis 8:17; Genesis 9:1, Genesis 9:7 to Genesis 1:28; and of Genesis 48:4 to Genesis 35:11;

(2) the Elohist does not always employ his "favorite expression" where he might have done so, as, e.g; not in Genesis 1:22; Genesis 17:6; Genesis 28:14;

(3) the Jehovist does not avoid it where the course of thought necessarily calls for it (vide Le Genesis 26:9), (Keil).

And replenish the earth. The words, "and subdue it, which had a place in the Adamic blessing, and which the LXX. insert here in the Noachic (καιÌ κατακυριευìσατε αὐτῆς), are omitted for the obvious reason that the world dominion originally assigned to man in Adam had been forfeited by sin, and could only be restored through the ideal Man, the woman's seed, to whom it had been transferred at the fail Hence says Paul, speaking of Christ: "καιÌ παìντα ὑπεìταξεν ὑποÌ τουÌς ποìδας αὐτοῦ (Ephesians 1:22); and the writer to the Hebrews: νῦν δεÌ οὐìπω ὀρῶμεν αὐτῷ (i.e. man) ταÌ παìντα ὑποτεταγμεìνα, τοÌν δεÌ βραχυìτι παρ ἀγγεìλους ἠλαττομεìνον βλεìπομεν Ἰησοῦν διαÌ τοÌ παìθημα τοῦ θαναìτου δοìξη καιÌ τιμῆ ἐστεφανωμεìνον (i.e. the world dominion which David, Psalms 8:6, recognized as belonging to God's ideal man) ὁìπως χαìριτι θεοῦ ὑπεÌρ παντοÌς γευìσηται θαναìτου (Genesis 2:8, Genesis 2:9). The original relationship which God had established between man and the lower creatures having been disturbed by sin, the inferior animals, as it were, gradually broke loose from their condition of subjection. As corruption deepened in the human race it was only natural to anticipate that man's lordship over the animal creation would become feebler and feebler. Nor, perhaps, is it an altogether violent hypothesis that, had the Deluge not intervened, in the course of time the beast would have become the master and man the slave. To prevent any such apprehensions in the future, as there was to be no second deluge, the relations of man and the lower creatures were to be placed on a new footing. Ultimately, in the palingenesia, they would be completely restored (cf. Isaiah 11:6); in the mean time, till that glorious consummation should arrive, the otherwise inevitable encroachments of the creatures upon the human family in its sin-created weakness should be restrained by a principle of fear. That was the first important modification made upon the original Adamic blessing.

Genesis 9:2

And the fear of you and the dread of you. Not simply of Noah and his sons, but of man in general. Shall be. Not for the first time, as it could not fail to be evoked by the sin of man during the previous generations, but, having already been developed, it was henceforth to be turned back upon the creature rather than directed against man. Upon. The verb to be is first construed with עַל, and afterwards with בְּ. The LXX. render both by ἐπιÌ, though perhaps the latter should be taken as equivalent to ἐìν, in which case the three clauses of the verse will express a gradation. The dread of man shall first overhang the beasts, then it shall enter into and take possession of them, and finally under its influence they shall fall into man's hand. Every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon (literally, in; vide supra. Murphy translates with) all that moveth upon the earth, and upon (literally, in) all the fishes of the sea. This does not imply that the animals may not sometimes rise against man and destroy him (cf. Exodus 8:6, Exodus 8:17, Exodus 8:24; Le Exodus 26:22; 1Ki 13:24, 1 Kings 13:25; 1 Kings 20:36; 2 Kings 2:24; Ezekiel 14:15; Acts 12:23, for instances in which the creatures were made ministers of Divine justice), but simply that the normal condition of the lower creatures will be one of instinctive dread of man, causing them rather to avoid than to seek his presence—a Statement sufficiently confirmed by the facts that wherever human civilization penetrates, there the dominion of the beasts retires; that even ferocious animals, such as lions, tigers, and other beasts of prey, unless provoked, usually flee from man rather than assail him. Into your hand are they delivered. Attested by

(1) man's actual dominion over such of the creatures as are either immediately needful for or helpful to him, such as the horse, the ox, the sheep, &c.; and

(2) by man's capability of taming and so reducing to subjection every kind of wild beast—lions, tigers, &c.

Genesis 9:3

Every—obviously admitting of "exceptions to be gathered both from the nature of the case and from the distinction of clean and unclean beasts mentioned before and afterwards" (Poole)—moving thing that liveth—clearly excluding such as had died of themselves or been slain by other beasts (cf. Exodus 22:31; Le Exodus 22:8)—shall be meat for you. Literally, to you it shall be for meat. Though the distinction between unclean and clean animals as to food, afterwards laid clown in the Mosaic code (Le Genesis 11:1-31), is not mentioned here, it does not follow that it was either unknown to the writer or unpracticed by the men before the Flood. Even as the green herb have I given you all things. An allusion to Genesis 1:29 (Rosenmüller, Bush); but vide infra. The relation of this verse to the former has been understood as signifying—

1. That animal food was expressly prohibited before the Flood, and now for the first time permitted (Mercerus, Rosenmüller, Candlish, Clarke, Murphy, Jamieson, Wordsworth, Kalisch)—the ground being that such appears the obvious import of the sacred writer's language.

2. That, though permitted from the first, it was not used till postdiluvian times, when men were explicitly directed to partake of it by God (Theodoret, Chrysostom, Aquinas, Luther, Pererius)—the reason being that prior to the Flood the fruits of the earth were more nutritious and better adapted for the sustenance of man's physical frame, propter excellentem terrae bonitatem praestantemque vim alimenti quod fructus terrae suppeditabant homini, while after it such a change passed upon the vegetable productions of the ground as to render them less capable of supporting the growing feebleness of the body, invalidam ad bene alendum hominem (Petetins).

3. That whether permitted or not prior to the Flood, it was used, and is here for the first time formally allowed (Keil, Alford, 'Speaker's Commentary'); in support of which opinion it may be urged that the general tendency of subsequent Divine legislation, until the fullness of the times, was ever in the direction of concession to the infirmities or necessities of human nature (cf. Matthew 19:8). The opinion, however, which appears to be the best supported is—

4. That animal food was permitted before the fall, and that the grant is h ere expressly renewed. The grounds for this opinion are—

(1) That the language of Genesis 1:29 does not explicitly forbid the use of animal food.

(2) That science demonstrates the existence of carnivorous animals prior to the appearance of man, and yet vegetable products alone were assigned for their food.'

(3) That shortly after the fall animals were slain by Divine direction for sacrifice, and probably also for food—at least this latter supposition is by no means an unwarrantable inference from Genesis 4:4 (q.v.).

(4) That the words, "as the green herb," even if they implied the existence of a previous restriction, do not refer to Genesis 1:29, but to Genesis 1:30, the green herb in the latter verse being contrasted with the food of man in Genesis 1:29. Solomon Glass thus correctly indicates the connection and the sense: "ut viridem herbam (illis), sic illa omnia dedi vobis" ('Sacr. Phil,' lib. 3. tr. 2, c. Genesis 22:2).

(5) That a sufficient reason for mentioning the grant of animal food in this connection may be found in the subjoined restriction, without assuming the existence of any previous limitation.

Genesis 9:4

But—אַךְ, an adverb of limitation or exception, as in Le Genesis 11:4, introducing a restriction on the foregoing precept—flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof. Literally, with its soul, its blood; the blood being regarded as the seat of the soul, or life principle (Le Genesis 17:11), and even as the soul itself (Le Genesis 17:14). The idea of the unity of the soul and the blood, on which the prohibition of blood is based, comes to light everywhere in Scripture. In the blood of one mortally wounded his soul flows forth (Lamentations 2:12), and he who voluntarily sacrifices himself pours out his soul unto death (Isaiah 53:12). The murderer of the innocent slays the soul of the blood of the innocent (ψυχηÌν αἱìματος ἀθωìου, Deuteronomy 27:25), which also cleaves to his (the murderer's) skirts (Jeremiah 2:34; cf. Proverbs 28:17, blood of a soul; cf. Genesis 4:10 with Hebrews 12:24; Job 24:12 with Revelation 6:9; vide also Psalms 94:21; Matthew 23:35). Nor can it be said to be exclusively peculiar to Holy Scripture. In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics the hawk, which feeds on bloods, represents the soul. Virgil says of a dying person, "purpuream vomit ille animam" ('AEneid,' 9.349). The Greek philosophers taught that the blood was either the soul (Critias), or the soul's food (Pythagoras), or the soul's seat (Empedocles), or the soul's producing cause (the Stoics); but only Scripture reveals the true relation between them both when it declares the blood to be not the soul absolutely, but the means of its self-attestation (vide Delitzsch's ' Bib. Psychology,' div. 4. sec. 11.). Shall ye not eat. Not referring to, although certainly forbidding, the eating of flesh taken from a living animal (Raschi, Cajetan, Delitzsch, Luther, Poole, Jamieson)—a fiendish custom which may have been practiced among the antediluvians, as, according to travelers, it is, or was, among modern Abyssinians; rather interdicting the flesh of slaughtered animals from which the blood has not been properly drained (Calvin, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Wordsworth). The same prohibition was afterwards incorporated in the Mosaic legislation (cf. Le Genesis 3:17; Genesis 7:1-26, 27; Genesis 17:10-14; Genesis 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16, Deuteronomy 12:23, Deuteronomy 12:24; Deuteronomy 15:23), and subsequently imposed upon the Gentile converts in the Christian Church by the authority of the Holy Ghost and the apostles (Acts 15:28, Acts 15:29). Among other reasons, doubtless, for the original promulgation of this law were these:—

1. A desire to guard against the practice of cruelty to animals (Chrysostom, Calvin, 'Speaker's Commentary').

2. A design to hedge about human life by showing the inviolability which in God's eye attached to even the lives of the lower creatures (Calvin, Willet, Poole, Kalisch, Murphy).

3. The intimate connection which even in the animal creation subsisted between the blood and the life (Kurtz, 'Sacr. Worship,' I. A.V.).

4. Its symbolic use as an atonement for sin (Poole, Delitzsch, ' Bib. Psy.' Genesis 4:11; Keil, Wordsworth, Murphy). That the restriction continues to the present day may perhaps be argued from its having been given to Noah, but cannot legitimately be inferred from having been imposed on the Gentile converts to Christianity as one τῶν ἐπαìναγκες τουìτων, from the burden of which they could not be excused (Clarke), as then, by parity of reasoning, meat offered to idols would be equally forbidden, which it is not, except when the consciences of the weak and ignorant are endangered (Calvin).

Genesis 9:5

And surely. Again the conjunction אַךְ introduces a restriction. The blood of beasts might without fear be shed for necessary uses, but the blood of man was holy and inviolable. Following the LXX. (καιÌ γαÌρ), Jerome, Pererius, Mercerus, Calvin, Poole, Willet give a causal sense to the conjunction, as if it supplied the reason of' the foregoing restriction—a sense which, according to Furst ('Hebrews Lex.,' sub nom.) it sometimes, though rarely, has; as in 2 Kings 24:3; Psalms 39:12; Psalms 68:22; but in each case אַךְ is better rendered "surely." Your blood of your lives.

(1) For your souls, i.e. in requital for them—lex talionis, blood for blood, life for life (Kalisch, Wordsworth, Bush);

(2) for your souls, i.e. for their protection (Gesenins, Miehaelis, Schumann, Tuch);

(3) from your souls—a prohibition against suicide (Suma-tan);

(4) with reference to your souls,—לְ = quoad,—as if specifying the particular blood for which exaction would be made (Keil);

(5) of your souls, belonging to them, or residing in them (LXX; Syriac, Vulgate, A.V; Calvin, Rosenmüller (qui ad animas vestras perti net), Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary') although, according to Kalisch, לְ cannot have the force of a genitive after דּמְכֶס, a substantive with a suffix; but vide Le Psalms 18:20, Psalms 18:23; cf. Ewald, 'Hebrews Syn.,' p. 113. Perhaps the force of לְ may be brought out by rendering, "your blood to the extent of your lives; ' i.e. not all blood-letting, but that which proceeds to the extent of taking life (cf. verse 15: "There shall no more be waters to the extent of a flood"). Will I require. Literally, search after, with a view to punishment; hence avenge (cf. Genesis 42:22; Ezekiel 33:6; Psalms 9:13). At (literally, from) the hand of every beast will I require it. Not "an awful warning against cruelty to the brute creation!" (Clarke), but a solemn proclamation of the sanctity of human life, since it enacted that that beast should be destroyed which slew a man—a statute afterwards incorporated in the Mosaic legislation (Exodus 21:28-32), and practiced even in Christian times; "not for any punishment to the beast, which, being under no law, is capable of neither sin nor punishment, but for caution to men" (Poole). If this practice appears absurd to some moderns, it was not so to Solon and Draco, in whose enactments there was a similar provision (Delitzsch, Lunge). And at (from) the hand of man; at (or from) the hand of every man's brother. Either

(1) two persons are here described—

(a) the individual man himself, and

(b) his brother,

i.e. the suicide and the murderer (Maimonides, Wordsworth, Murphy), or the murderer and his brother man, i.e. kinsman, or goel (Michaelis, Bohlen, Baumgarten, Kalisch, Bush), or the ordinary civil authorities (Kalisch, Candlish, Jamieson)—or

(2) one, viz; the murderer, who is first generically distinguished from the beast, and then characterized as his victim's brother; as thus—" at" or from "the hand of man," as well as beast; "from the hand of the individual man, or every man (cf. Genesis 42:25; Num 17:1-13 :17 for this distributive use of אִישׁ) his brother," supplying a new argument against homicide (Calvin, Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Lunge). The principal objection to discovering Goelism in the phraseology is that it requires מִיַּד to be understood in two different senses, and the circumstance, that the institution of the magistracy appears to be hinted at in the next verse, renders it unnecessary to detect it in this. Will I require the life (or soul) of man. The specific manner in which this inquisition after Blood should be carried out is indicated in the words that follow.

Genesis 9:6

Whoso sheddeth. Literally, he shedding, i.e. willfully and unwarrantably; and not simply accidentally, for which kind of manslaughter the law afterwards provided (vide Numbers 35:11); or judicially, for that is commanded by the present statute. Man's blood. Literally, blood of the man, human blood. By man. Not openly and directly by God, but by man himself, acting of course as God's instrument and agent—an instruction which involved the setting up of the magisterial office, by whom the sword might be borne ("Hic igitur fens est, ex quo manat totum jus civile etjus gentium."—Luther. Cf. Numbers 35:29-31; Romans 13:4), and equally laid a basis for the law of the goel subsequently established in Israel (Deuteronomy 19:6; Joshua 20:3). The Chaldee paraphrases, "with witnesses by sentence of the judges." The LXX. substitutes for "by man" ἀντιÌ τοῦ αἱìματος αὐτοῦan interpretation followed by Professor Lewis, who quotes Jona ben Gannach in its support, Shall. Not merely a permission legalizing, but an imperative command enjoining, capital punishment, the reason for which follows. For in the image of God made he man. To apply this to the magistracy (Bush, Murphy, Keil), who are sometimes in Scripture styled Elohim (Psalms 82:6), and the ministers of God (Romans 13:4), and who may be said to have been made in the Divine image in the sense of being endowed with the capacity of ruling and judging, seems forced and unnatural; the clause obviously assigns the original dignity of man (cf. Genesis 1:28) as the reason why the murderer cannot be suffered to escape (Calvin, Poole, Alford, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Candlish, Lange)

Genesis 9:7

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. Vide on Genesis 9:1.


Genesis 9:1-7

New arrangements for a new era.


1. The procreate instrumentality—the ordinance of marriage (Genesis 9:1, Genesis 9:7), which was -

(1) A Divine institution appointed by God in Eden (cf. Genesis 2:22, and Matthew 19:5).

(2) A sacred institution. Every ordinance of God's appointment, it may be said, is in a manner holy; but a special sanctity attaches to that of marriage. God attested the estimation in which he held it by visiting the world's corruption, which had principally come through its desecration, with the waters of a flood.

(3) A permanent institution, being the same in its nature, uses, and ends that it had been from the beginning, only modified to suit the changing circumstances of man's condition. Prior to the fall it was exempt from any of those imperfections which in human experience have clung to it ever since. Subsequent to the melancholy entrance of sin, there was superadded to the lot of woman an element of pain and sorrow from which she had been previously free; and though anterior to the Flood it had been grossly abused by man's licentiousness, after it, we cannot doubt, it was restored in all its original purity, though still with the curse of sorrow unremoved.

2. The originating cause—the Divine blessing (Genesis 9:1, Genesis 9:7), without which—

(1) The marriage bed would not be fruitful (Psalms 127:3). Cf. the case of Rachel (Genesis 30:2), of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11), of Ruth (Ruth 4:13).

(2) The married life would not be holy. What marriage is and leads to when dissociated from the fear of God had already been significantly displayed upon the theatre of the antediluvian world, and is abundantly declared in Scripture, both by precept (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 28:1; Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3, Deuteronomy 7:4; Joshua 23:12, Joshua 23:13; 2 Corinthians 6:14) and example; e.g; the Israelites (Judges 3:6, Judges 3:7), Samson (Judges 14:1-16), Solomon (1 Kings 3:1), Jews (Ezra 9:1-12).

(3) The marriage tie would not be sure. As ungodliness tends to violate the marriage law by sins of polygamy, so, without the fear of God, there is no absolute security that the bond may not be broken by adultery and divorce.


1. Against the world of animals.

(1) In Eden such protection was not required, man having been constituted lord of the inferior creation, and the beasts of the field never rising to dispute his authority, his rule being characterized by gentleness and love (Genesis if. 20).

(2) After the fall such protection was incomplete. A change having passed upon the master, there is reason to suppose that a corresponding change transpired upon the servant. The moral order of the world having been dislocated, a like instability would doubtless invade those economical arrangements that depended on man for their successful administration. As man sank deeper into the mire of corruption, his supremacy over the beasts of the field would appear to have been more frequently and fiercely disputed (Genesis 6:11). But now, the Flood having washed away the sinning race,

(3) such protection was henceforth to be rendered secure by imbuing the brute nature with an instinctive dread of man which would lead the animals to acknowledge his supremacy, and rather flee from his presence than assail his dominion. The operation of this law is proved today by the facts that man retains unquestioned his lordship over all those domesticated animals that are useful to him; that there is no creature, however wild and ferocious, that he cannot tame; and that wherever man appears with his civilizing agencies the wild beast instinctively retires.

2. Against the world of men. Ever since the fall man has required to be protected against himself. Prior to the Flood it does not appear that even crimes of murder and bloodshed were publicly avenged. Now, however, the previous laxness, if it was such, and not rather Divine clemency, was to cease, and an entirely new arrangement to come into operation.

(1) The law was henceforth to inflict CAPITAL PUNISHMENT on its murderers; not the law of man simply, but the law of God. Given to Noah, this statute was designed for the universal family of man until repealed by the Authority that imposed it. Not having been exclusively a Jewish statute, the abrogation of the Mosaic economy does not affect its stability. Christ, having come not to destroy the fundamental laws of Heaven, may be fairly presumed to have left this standing. Inferences from the spirit of Christianity have no validity as against an express Divine commandment.

(2) The reasons for the law were to be the essential dignity of man's nature (verse 6; cf. homily on the greatness of man, Genesis 1:26) and the fundamental brotherhood of the race (verse 5), a point which appears not to have received sufficient prominence in prediluvian times (cf. Acts 17:26).

(3) The execution of the law was neither to be retained in the Divine hand for miraculous administration, nor to be left in that of the private individual (the kinsman) to gratify revenge, but to be entrusted to society for enforcement by means or a properly-constituted tribunal. This was the commencement of social government among men, and the institution of the magisterial office, or the power of the sword (vide Romans 13:1-5).


1. The rule. It is not certain that animal food was interdicted in Eden; it is almost certain that it was in use between the fall and the Flood. At the commencement of the new era it was expressly sanctioned.

2. The restriction. While the flesh of animals might be used as food, they were not to be mutilated while alive, nor was the blood to be eaten with the flesh. Note the bearing of the first of these on the question of vivisection, which the Divine law appears explicitly to forbid, except it can be proved to be indispensable for the advancement of medical knowledge with a view to the healing of disease, and, in the case of extending a permission, imperatively requires to be carried on with the least possible infliction of pain upon the unresisting creature whose life is thus sacrificed for the good of man; and of the second of these, on the lawfulness of eating blood under the Christian dispensation, see Expos. on verse 4.

3. The reason.

(1) For the rule, which, though not stated, may be judged to have been

(a) a concession to the moral weakness of man's soul, and

(b) a provision for the physical infirmity of man's body.

(2) For the restriction

(a) to prevent cruelty to animals;

(b) to fence about man's life by showing the criminality of destroying that of the beast;

(c) to assert God's lordship over all life;

(d) because of its symbolic value as the sign of atoning blood.


1. God's clemency towards man.

2. God's care for man.

3. God's goodness to man.

4. God's estimate of man.


Genesis 9:1-7

The new life of man on the earth

under a new revelation of the Divine favor. The chief points are—

I. UNLIMITED POSSESSION OF THE EARTH, and use of its inhabitants and products, whether for food or otherwise; thus supplying—

1. The scope of life.

2. The enjoy-meat of life.

3. The development of life.

II. Absolute RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE, and preservation of the gentler feelings (the blood being forbidden as injurious to man in this case), promoting—

1. The supremacy of the higher nature over the lower.

2. The revelation of the ethical law.

3. The preparation of the heart for Divine communications.

III. Man living in BROTHERHOOD,

(1) revealing the image of God,

(2) observing God's law,

(3) rejoicing in his blessing, he shall multiply and fill the earth.

The earth waits for such inhabitants; already by Divine judgments prepared for them.—R.

Verses 8-17


Genesis 9:8

And God spake—in continuation of the preceding discourse—unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying.

Genesis 9:9

And I, behold, I establish—literally, am causing to rise up or stand; ἀνιìστημι (LXX.)—my covenant (cf. Genesis 6:18) with you, and with your seed after you. I.e. the covenant contemplated all subsequent posterity in its provisions, and, along with the human family, the entire animal creation.

Genesis 9:10

And with every living creature—literally, every soul (or breathing thing) that liveth, a generic designation of which the particulars are now specified—that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth—literally, in fowl, &c.; i.e. belonging to these classes of animals (cf. Genesis 1:25, Genesis 1:30; Genesis 6:20; Genesis 8:17) with you; from all that go out of the ark,—not necessarily implying ('Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy), though in all probability it was the case, that there were animals which had never been in the ark; but simply an idiomatic phrase expressive of the totality of the animal creation (Alford)—to every beast of the earth. I.e. wild beast (Genesis 1:25), the chayyah of the land, which was not included among the animals that entered the ark (Murphy); or living creature (Genesis 2:19), referring here to the fishes of the sea, which were not included in the ark (Kalisch). That the entire brute creation was designed to be embraced in the Noachic covenant seems apparent from the use of the prepositions—בְּ describing the classes to which the animals belong, as in Genesis 7:21; מִן indicating one portion of the whole, the to minus aquo, and לְ the terminus ad quem—in their enumeration. Kalisch thinks the language applies only to the animals of Noah's time, and not to those of a later age, on the ground that "the destiny of the animals is everywhere connected with that of the human race;" but this is equivalent to their being included in the covenant.

Genesis 9:11

And I will establish my covenant with you. Not form it for the first time, as if no such covenant had existed in antediluvian times (Knobel); but cause it to stand or permanently establish it, so that it shall no more be-in danger of being overthrown, as it recently has been. The word "my" points to a covenant already in existence, though not formally mentioned until the time of Noah (Genesis 6:18). The promise of the woman's seed, which formed the substance of the covenant during the interval from Adam to Noah, was from Noah's time downwards to be enlarged by a specific pledge of the stability of the earth and the safety of man (cf. Genesis 8:22). Neither shall all flesh—including the human race and animal creation. Cf. כָּל־בָּשָׂר mankind (Genesis vi 12), the lower creatures (Genesis 7:21)—be cut off any more by the waters of a flood. Literally, the flood just passed, which would no more return. Neither shall there any more be a flood (of any kind) to destroy the earth. Regions might be devastated and tribes of animals and men swept away, but never again would there be a universal destruction of the earth or of man.

Genesis 9:12

And God said, This is the token—אוֹת (vide Genesis 1:14; Genesis 4:15)—of the covenant which I make—literally, am giving (cf. Genesis 17:2)—between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations. Le'doroth (vide Genesis 6:9); 'olam (from 'alam, to hide, to conceal), pr. that which is hidden; hence, specially, time of which either the beginning or the end is uncertain or undefined, the duration being usually determined by the nature of the case (vide Gesenius, 'Hebrews Lex.,' sub voce). Here the meaning is, that so long as there were circuits or generations of men upon the earth, so long would this covenant endure.

Genesis 9:13

I do set. Literally, I have given, or placed, an indication that the atmospheric phenomenon referred to had already frequently appeared (Syriac, Arabic, Aben Ezra, Chrysostom, Calvin, Willet, Murphy, Wordsworth, Kalisch, Lange). The contrary opinion has been maintained that it now for the first time appeared (Bush, Keil, Delitzsch), or at least that the historian thought so (Knobel); but unless there had been no rain, or the laws of light and the atmospheric conditions of the earth had been different from what they are at present, it must have been a frequent spectacle in the primeval heavens. My bow. i.e. the rainbow, τοìξον (LXX.), (cf. Ezekiel 1:28). The ordinary rainbow consists of a series of successive zones or bands of polarized light, forming little concentric circles in the sky, and having a common center almost always below the horizon, and diametrically opposite to the sun. It is produced by the refraction and reflection of the sun's light through the spherical raindrops on which the rays fall, and, accordingly, must always appear, with a greater or a lesser degree of visibility, when the two material agencies come in contact The part of the sky on which the rainbow is thrown is much more bright within than without the bow. The outer space is dark, almost black; and the inner space, on the contrary, melts into the violet almost insensibly (Nichol's 'Cyclopedia of the Sciences,' art. Rainbow). It is here styled God's bow, as being his workmanship (cf. Ecclesiasticus 43:12), and his seal appended to his covenant (Genesis 9:17). In the cloud, עָנָן, that which veils the heavens, from a root signifying to cover (Gesenius). And it shall be for a token, לְאוֹת= εἰς σημεῖον, (LXX.). In Greek mythology the rainbow is designated by a name (Iris) which is at least connected with εἰìρω, to speak, and εἰρηìνη, peace; is represented as the daughter of Thaumas (wonder), and Electra (brightness) the daughter of Oceanus; is assigned the office of messenger to the king and queen of Olympus; and is depicted as set in heaven for a sign. The Persians seem to have associated the rainbow with similar ideas. An old picture, mentioned by Stolberg, represents a winged boy on a rainbow with an old man kneeling in a posture, of worship. The Hindoos describe the rainbow as a warlike weapon in the hands of Indras their god, "with which he hurls flashing darts upon the impious giants;" but also as a symbol of peace exhibited to man "when the combat of the heavens is silenced." By the Chinese it is regarded as the harbinger of troubles and misfortunes on earth, and by the old Scandinavians as a bridge uniting earth and heaven. Traditional reflections of the Biblical narrative, they do not "account for the application in the Pentateuch of the rainbow to a very remarkable purpose," or "explain why the New Testament represents the rainbow as an attribute of the Divine throne," or "why angels are sent as messengers on earth" (Kalisch); but are themselves accounted for and explained by it. The institution of the rainbow as a sign clearly negatives the idea (Aquinas, Cajetan) that it was originally and naturally a sign; which, if it was, "it was a lying sign," since the Flood came notwithstanding its prognostications (Willet). Of a covenant. "The bow in the hands of man was an instrument of battle (Genesis 48:22; Psalms 7:12; Proverbs 6:2; Zechariah 9:10); but the bow bent by the hand of God has become a symbol of peace" (Wordsworth). Between me and the earth.

Genesis 9:14

And it shall come to pan, when I bring a cloud over the earth. Literally, in my clouding a cloud, i.e. gathering clouds, which naturally signify store of rain (1 Kings 18:44, 1 Kings 18:45). Clouds are often used to denote afflictions and dangers (cf. Ezekiel 30:3, Ezekiel 30:18; Ezekiel 32:7; Ezekiel 34:12; Joel 2:2). That the bow shall be seen in the cloud. Literally, and the bow is seen, which it always is when the sun's rays fall upon it, if the spectator's back is towards the light, and his face towards the cloud. Thus at the moment when danger seems to threaten most, the many-colored arch arrests the gaze.

Genesis 9:15

And I will remember (cf. Genesis 8:1). An anthropomorphism introduced to remind man that God is ever faithful to his covenant engagements (Calvin). "God is said to remember, because he maketh us to know and to remember" (Chrysostom). My covenant (vide on Genesis 9:11), which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood—hayah with le—to become (cf. Genesis 2:7); literally, shall no more be (i.e. grow) to a flood; or, "and there shell no more be the waters to the extent of a flood "—to destroy all flesh.

Genesis 9:16

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant. Literally, the covenant of eternity. One of those pregnant Scripture sayings that have in them an almost inexhaustible fullness of meaning, which does not at first sight dis. close itself to the eye of the unreflecting reader. In so far as the Noachic covenant was simply a promise that there should be no recurrence of a flood, the covenant of eternity had a corresponding limit in its duration to the period of this present terrestrial economy. But, rightly viewed, the Noachic covenant was the original Adamic covenant set up again in a different form; and hence, when applied to it, the phrase covenant of eternity is entitled to retain its highest and fullest significance, as a covenant reaching from eternity to eternity. Between God and every living creature of all-flesh that is upon the earth.

Genesis 9:17

And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant. Murphy thinks that God here directed the patriarch's attention to an actual rainbow; it seems more natural to conclude that from the beginning of the interview (Genesis 8:20) the ark, altar, and worshippers were encircled by its variegated arch. Kalisch compares with the rainbow the other signs which God subsequently appended to his covenants; as, e.g; circumcision (Genesis 17:11), the passover (Exodus 12:13), the sabbath (Exodus 31:13). The Noachic covenant being universal, the sign was also universal—"τεìρας μεροìπων ἀνθρωìπων" (I1; 11.27), a sign to men of many tongues. The later covenants being limited to Israel, their signs were local and provisional, and have now been supplanted by the higher symbolism of the Christian Church, viz; baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Christian sabbath. Which I have established. The different verbs used in this passage in connection with בְּרִית may be here brought together.

1. נָתַן (Genesis 9:12) representing the covenant as a gift of Divine grace.

2. קוּס (Hiph.; Genesis 9:9, Genesis 9:11, Genesis 9:17) exhibiting the covenant as something which God has both caused to stand and raised up when fallen.

3. זָכַר (Genesis 9:15) depicting the covenant as always present to the Divine mind. Tuch, Stahelin, and Delitzsch detect an idiosyncrasy of the Elohist in using the first and second of these verbs instead of כָּרַת, the favorite expression of the Jehovist. But כָּרַת is used by the Elohist in Genesis 21:27, Genesis 21:32, while in Deuteronomy 4:18 the Jehovist uses הֵקִיס. Between ms and all flesh that is upon the earth.


Genesis 9:16

The covenant renewed.

I. THE AUTHOR OF THE COVENANT. God. This is evident from the nature of the case. In ordinary language a covenant signifies "a mutual contract between two (or more) parties"; cf. Genesis 21:27 (Abraham and Abimelech); Joshua 24:25 (Joshua and Israel); 1 Samuel 18:3 (Jonathan and David); 1 Kings 20:34 (Ahab and Benhadad);' comprehending a promise made by the one to the other, accompanied with a condition, upon the performance of which the accepter becomes entitled to the fulfillment of the promise" (Dick's 'Theol. Lect.,' 45.). Applied, however, to those transactions between God and man which took their rise subsequent to the fall, a covenant is an arrangement or disposition originated by God under which certain free and gracious promises are made over to man, which promises are ratified by sacrifice and impose certain obligations on their recipients, while they are usually connected with institutions illustrative of their nature. But, taking either definition of the term, it is obvious that the initial move-merit in any such transaction must belong to God; and with special emphasis does God claim to be the sole Author of the covenant established with Noah and his descendants (1 Kings 20:9, 1Ki 20:11, 1 Kings 20:12, 1 Kings 20:17).

II. THE PARTIES TO THE COVENANT, i.e. the persons interested in the covenant; viz; Noah and his posterity. But Noah and his sons at that time were—

1. The heads of the race. Hence the covenant may be said to have possessed a worldwide aspect. Because of their connection with Noah the entire family of man had an interest in its provisions.

2. The fathers of the Church. As believers Noah and his family had been saved; and with them, in the character of believers, the covenant was made. Hence it had also a special outlook to the Church, for whom it had a blessing quite distinct from that which it conferred upon the world as such.

III. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE COVENANT. Calling it so frequently as he does "my covenant" (Genesis 6:18; Genesis 7:9, Genesis 7:11), the Author of it seems desirous to connect it in our thoughts with that old covenant which, more than sixteen centuries earlier, he had established with mankind immediately after the fall. Now that covenant was in substance an arrangement, disposition, proposal, or promise of mercy and salvation; and that has been the essential element in every covenant that God has made with man. So to speak, God's covenant is just another name for his formal conveyance to mankind sinners of the free gift of Christ and his salvation.

IV. THE FORM OF THE COVENANT. While in every age essentially the same, the form of the covenant has been changing with the changing eras of human history. When we speak of a change of dispensation, the thing meant is a change upon the outward form or mode of representing the covenant—a dispensation being a Divine arrangement for communicating blessing. In prediluvian times the form which the covenant assumed was the promise of the woman's seed. From the Deluge onwards it was a promise of forbearance—" Neither shall all flesh he cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there he any more a flood to destroy the earth." In the patriarchal era it became the promise of a son "in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed" (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18). Under the Mosaic dispensation the promise of a prophet like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15); during the monarchy the promise of a king to sit upon David's throne (2 Samuel 7:12); in the time of Isaiah the promise of a suffering servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 53:1-12.); in the fullness of the times it assumed its permanent form, viz; that of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ as the woman's seed, as Abraham's child, as David's son, as Jehovah's servant.

V. THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT. Covenant transactions under the old or Levitical dispensation were invariably accompanied with the offering up of sacrificial victims, as a public attestation of the binding character of the arrangement. The covenant which God made with Noah had also its sacrificial seal.

1. The meritorious sacrifice. The propitiatory offering of the Lord Jesus Christ, on the sole ground of which he is well pleased with and mercifully disposed towards the race of sinful man.

2. The typical sacrifice. The offering of Noah upon Ararat after emerging from the ark.

VI. THE SIGN OF THE COVENANT. The rainbow, which was—

1. A universal sign. The covenant having been made with the entire family of man, it was in a manner requisite that the sign should be one which was patent to the race; not limited and local and national, like circumcision, afterwards given to the Hebrews or Abrahamidae, but universal, ubiquitous, cosmopolitan; and such was the rainbow. This was a first mark of kindness on the part of God towards the family which he had taken into covenant with himself.

2. An attractive sign. Such as could not fail to arrest the g of those whose special interest it was to behold it. Nothing is more remarkable than the quickness with which it attracts the eye, and the pleasurable feelings which its sight enkindles. In its selection, then, to be a sign and symbol of his covenant, instead of something in itself repulsive or even indifferent, we can detect another proof of kindness on the part of God.

3. A seasonable sign. At the very moment, as it were, when nature's elements are threatening another deluge, the signal of heaven's clemency is hung out upon the watery sky to rebuke the fears of men. Another token of special kindness on the part of God.

4. A suggestive sign—suggestive of the covenant of grace. Possibly this was the chief reason why the rainbow was selected as the sign of the covenant; a further display of kindness on the part of God.


1. To eternity (verse 16). In so far as it was a spiritual covenant with the believing Church, it was designed to be unto, as it had actually been from, everlasting.

2. For perpetual generations (verse 12). In so far as it was a providential covenant with the race, it was designed to continue to the end of time.


1. The exceeding riches of Divine grace in dealing with men by way of a covenant.

2. The exceeding faithfulness of God in adhering to his covenant, notwithstanding man's sinfulness and provocation.

3. The exceeding hopefulness of man's position in being placed beneath a covenant of mercy.


Genesis 9:8-17

The new Noachic covenant established.

I. It is a COVENANT OF LIFE. It embraces all the posterity of Noah, i.e. it is—

1. The new foundation on which humanity rests.

2. It passes through man to all flesh, to all living creatures.

3. The sign of it, the rainbow in the cloud, is also the emblem of the salvation which may be said to be typified in the deliverance of Noah and his family.

4. The background is the same element wherewith the world was destroyed, representing the righteousness of God as against the sin of man. On that righteousness God sets the sign of love, which is produced by the rays of light—the sun being the emblem of Divine goodness—radiating from the infinite center in the glorious Father of all. "And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud."


1. It is waiting to be recognized. When we place ourselves in right relation to the revelations and promises of Jehovah we can always see the bow on the cloud of sense, on events—bright compassion on the darkest providence.

2. There is an interdependence between the objective and subjective. The rainbow is the natural result of an adjustment between the sun, the earth, the cloud falling in rain, and man, the beholder. Take the earth to represent the abiding laws of man's nature and God's righteousness, the falling cloud to represent the condemnation and punishment of human sin, the sun the revealed love and mercy of God sending forth its beams in the midst of the dispensation of judgment; then let there be faith in man to look up and rejoice in that which is set before him, and he will behold the rainbow of the covenant even on the very background of the condemnation.

III. TRANSFIGURED RIGHTEOUSNESS IN REDEMPTION. The cross at once condemnation and life. The same righteousness which once destroyed the earth is manifested in Christ Jesus—"righteousness unto all and upon all them that believe."

IV. UNION OF GOD AND MAN. God himself is said to look upon the sign of the covenant that he may remember. So man looking and God looking to the same pledge of salvation. "God was in Christ reconciled," &c; Their reconciliation is complete and established.—R.


Genesis 9:13

The bow in the cloud,

with deep joy and yet with awe must Noah have looked around him on leaving the ark. On every side signs of the mighty destruction; the earth scarcely dried, and the busy throng of men (Luke 17:27) all gone. Yet signs of new life; the earth putting forth verdure, as though preparing for a new and happier chapter of history. His first recorded act was sacrifice—an acknowledgment that his preserved life was God's gift, a new profession of faith in him. Then God gave the promise that no such destruction should again befall the earth, and so ordered the sign that the rain-cloud which might excite the fear should bring with it the rainbow, the pledge of the covenant. But as Genesis 6:18 foreshadowed the Christian covenant (1 Peter 3:21) in its aspect of deliverance from destruction, the text points to the same in its beating on daily life and service. The Godward life and renewal of the will which the law could not produce (Romans 8:3) is made sure to believers through the constraining power of the love of Christ (cf. 1 John 3:3; Revelation 12:11). And if clouds should cause fear, and God's face be hidden, and the energy of dedication grow languid, we are reminded (Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:24). And in the vision of the glorified Church (Revelation 4:3) the rainbow again appears, pointing back to the early sign, connecting them as parts of one scheme, and visibly setting forth the glory of God in his mercy and grace (cf. Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:6; John 1:14).

I. THE COVENANT WAS MADE WITH NOAH AND HIS SEED AS CHILDREN OF FAITH. They had believed in God's revealed way of salvation and entered the ark (cf. Numbers 21:8). The root of a Christian life is belief in a finished redemption (2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 John 5:11); not belief that the doctrine is true, but trust in the fact as the one ground of hope. Hast thou acted on God's call; entered the ark; trusted Christ; none else, nothing else? Waitest thou for something in thyself? Noah did not think of fitness when told to enter. God calleth thee as unfit (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15). Try to believe; make a real effort.

II. THE POWER OF A CHRISTIAN LIFE; FAITH AS A HABIT OF THE MIND. Look to the bow. "Looking unto Jesus." The world is the field on which God's grace is shown; we are the actors by whom his work is done. How shall we do this? Beset by hindrances—love of the world, love of self, love of ease. We cannot of ourselves (cf. Luke 22:33, Luke 22:34; Romans 11:20). We are strong only in trusting to the power of the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:13).

III. IN THIS THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR HELPER. His office is to reveal Christ to the soul. His help is promised if sought for.—M.

Verses 18-29


Genesis 9:18

And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, who are here again mentioned as the heads of the nations into which the family of man developed, the writer having described the important modifications made upon the law of nature and the covenant of grace, and being now about to proceed with the onward course of human history. The present section, extending to Genesis 9:27, is usually assigned to the Jehovistic author (Tuch,Bleek, Kalisch, Colenso, Kuenen), though by Davidson it is ascribed to a so-called redactor, with the exception of the present clause, which is recognized as the Jehovist's contribution to the story. The ground of this apportionment is the introduction of the name Jehovah in Genesis 9:26 (q.v.), and certain traces throughout the paragraph of the style of writing supposed to be peculiar to the supplementer. And Ham is the father of Canaan. Kena'an, the depressed or low one; either the Lowlander or inhabitant of a tow coast country, as opposed to the loftier regions (Aram); from kana , to be low, depressed, in situation, as of land (Gesenius); or more probably the servile one in spirit (Furst, Murphy, Keil, Lange). The reason for the insertion of this notice here, and of the similar one in Genesis 9:22, was obviously to draw attention to the circumstance, not "that the origin of Israel's ascendancy and of Canaan's degradation dates so far back as the family of the second founder of the human race," as if the writer's standpoint were long subsequent to the conquest (Kalisch), but that, "as Israel was now going to possess the land of Canaan, they might know that now was the time when the curse of Canaan and his posterity should take place" (Wilier).

Genesis 9:19

These are the three sons of Noah; and of them was the whole earthi.e. the earth's population (cf. Genesis 11:1; Genesis 19:31)—overspread. More correctly, dispersed themselves abroad. Διεοπαìρησαν ἐπιÌ πᾶσαν τηÌν γῆν (LXX.): disseminatum est omne genus hominum (Vulgate).

Genesis 9:20

And Noah began to be an husbandman. Literally, a man of the ground. Vir terroe (Vulgate); ἀìνθρωπος γεωργοÌς γῆς (LXX.); Chald; נְּבַר פָלַח בְּאַרְעָא = vir colens terram; agriculturae dediturus. Cf. Joshua 5:4, "a man of war;" 2 Samuel 16:7, "a man of blood;" Genesis 46:32, "a man of cattle;" Exodus 4:10, "a man of words." And he planted a vineyard. So Murphy, Wordsworth, Kalisch. Keil, Delitzsch, and Lange regard ish ha' Adamah, with the art; as in apposition to Noah, and read, "And Noah, the husbandman, began and planted a vineyard," i.e. caepit plantare. Neither interpretation presupposes that husbandry and vine cultivation were now practiced for the first time. That Armenia is a wine-growing country is testified by Xenophon ('Anab.,' 4.4, 9). That the vine was abundantly cultivated in Egypt is evident from representations on the monuments, as well as from Scriptural allusions. The Egyptians say that Osiris, the Greeks that Dionysus, the Romans that Saturn, first taught men the cultivation of the tree and the use of its fruit.

Genesis 9:21

And he drank of the wine. יַיִן; "perhaps so called from bubbling up and fermenting;" connected with יָוַן (Gesenius). Though the first mention of wine in Scripture, it is scarcely probable that the natural process of fermentation for so many centuries escaped the notice of the enterprising Cainites, or even of the Sethites; that, "though grapes had been in use before this, wine had not been extracted from them" (Murphy); or that Noah was unacquainted with the nature and effects of this intoxicating liquor (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Keil, Lunge). The article before יַיִן indicates that the patriarch was "familiar with the use and treatment" of the grape (Kalisch); and Moses does not say this was the first occasion on which the patriarch tasted the fermented liquor (Calvin, Wordsworth). And was drunken. The verb שָׁכַר (whence shechar, strong drink, Numbers 28:7), to drink to the full, very often signifies to make oneself drunken, or simply to be intoxicated as the result of drinking; and that which the Holy Spirit here reprobates is not the partaking of the fruit of the vine, but the drinking so as to be intoxicated thereby. Since the sin of Noah cannot be ascribed to ignorance, it is perhaps right, as well as charitable, to attribute it to ago and inadvertence. Six hundred years old at the time of the Flood, he must have been considerably beyond this when Ham saw him overtaken in his fault, since Canaan was Ham's fourth son (Genesis 10:6), and the first was not born till after the exit from the ark (Genesis 8:18). But from whatever cause induced, the drunkenness of Noah was not entirely guiltless; it was sinful in itself, and led to further shame. And he was uncovered. Literally, he uncovered himself. Hithpael of גָּלַה, to make naked, which more correctly indicates the personal guilt of the patriarch than the A.V; or the LXX; ἐγυμνωìθη. That intoxication tends to sensuality cf. the cases of Lot (Genesis 19:33), Ahasuerus (Esther 1:10, Esther 1:11), Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1-6). Within his tent. Ἐν τῷ οἰìκῷ αὐτοῦ (LXX.).

Genesis 9:22

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness. Pudenda, from a root (עָרָה) signifying to make naked, from a kindred root to which (עָרם) comes the term expressive of the nakedness of Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:7). The sin of Ham—not a trifling and unintentional transgression" (Von Bohlen)—obviously lay not in seeing what perhaps he may have come upon unexpectedly, but

(1) in wickedly rejoicing in what he saw, which, considering who he was that was overcome with wine,—"the minister of salvation to men, and the chief restorer of the world,"—the relation in which he stood to Ham,—that of father,—the advanced age to which he had now come, and the comparatively mature years of Ham himself, who was "already more than a hundred years old," should have filled him with sincere sorrow; "sed nunquam vino victum pattern filius risisset, nisi prius ejecisset animo illam reverentiam et opinionem, quae in liberis de parentibus ex mandato Dei existere debet" (Luther); and

(2) in reporting it, doubtless with a malicious purpose, to his brethren. And told his two brethren without. Possibly inviting them to come and look upon their father's shame.

Genesis 9:23

And Shem and Japheth took a garment. Literally, the robe, i.e. which was at hand (Keil, Lange); the simlah, which was an outer cloak (Deuteronomy 10:18; 1 Samuel 21:10; Isaiah 3:6, Isaiah 3:7), in which, at night, persons wrapped themselves (Deuteronomy 22:17). Sometimes the letters are transposed, and the word becomes salmah (cf. Exodus 22:8; Micah 2:8). And laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not the nakedness of their father; thereby evincing "the regard they paid to their father's honor and their own modesty (Calvin).

Genesis 9:24

And Noah awoke from his wine. I.e. the effects of his wine (cf. 1 Samuel 1:14; 1 Samuel 25:37); ἐξεìνηψε (LXX.); "became fully conscious of his condition" (T. Lewis). And knew. By inspiration (Alford); more probably by making inquiries as to the reason of the simlah covering him. What his younger son. Literally, his son, the little one, i.e. the youngest son (Willet, Murphy, Wordsworth, T. Lewis, Alford, Candlish), or the younger son (Keil, Bush, Karisch); cf. Genesis 5:32. Generally believed to have been Ham, though by many Canaan is understood (Aben Ezra, Theodoret, Procopius, Scaliger, Poole, Jamieson, Inglis, Lewis). Origen mentions a tradition that Canaan first saw the shame of Noah, and told it to his father. Wordsworth, following Chrysostom, believes Canaan may have been an accomplice. 'The Speaker's Commentary' thinks it would solve the difficulty which attaches to the cursing of Canaan.

Genesis 9:25

And he said. Not in personal resentment, since "the fall of Noah is not at all connected with his prophecy, except as serving to bring out the real character of his children, and to reconcile him to the different destinies which he was to announce as awaiting their respective races" (Candlish); but under the impulse of a prophetic spirit (Poole, Keil, Lange, Candlish, Murphy, and expositors generally), which, however, had its historical occasion in the foregoing incident. The structure of the prophecy is perfectly symmetrical, introducing, in three poetical verses,

(1) the curse of Canaan,

(2) the blessing of Shem, and

(3) the enlargement of Japheth, and in all three giving prominence to the doom of servitude pronounced upon the son of Ham.

Cursed. The second curse pronounced upon a human being, the first having been on Cain (Genesis 4:11). Colenso notices that all the curses belong to the Jehovistic writer; but vide Genesis 49:6, Genesis 49:7, which Tuch and Bleek ascribed to the Elohist, though, doubtless in consequence of the "curse," by Davidson and others it is now assigned to the Jehovist. That this curse was not an imprecation, but a prediction of the future subjection of the Canaanites, has been maintained (Theodoret, Venema, Willet), chiefly in consequence of its falling upon Canaan; but

(1) as the contrary "blessing" implies the inheritance of good in virtue of a Divine disposition to that effect, so does "cursing" import subjection to evil by the same Divine power; and

(2) if we eliminate the moral element from the doom of Canaan, which clearly referred to a condition of temporal servitude, there seems no reason why the language of Noah should not be regarded as a solemnly pronounced and Divinely guaranteed infliction; while

(3) as the curse is obviously aimed at the nations and peoples descending from the execrated person, it is not inconsistent to suppose that many individuals amongst those nations and peoples might attain to a high degree of temporal and spiritual prosperity.

Be Canaan.

(1) Not Ham, the father of Canaan (Arabic Version); nor

(2) all the sons of Ham, though concentrated in Canaan (Havernick, Keil, Murphy); but

(3) Canaan alone, though indirectly, through him, Ham also (Calvin, Bush, Kalisch, Lange, et alii).

For the formal omission of Ham many different reasons have been assigned.

(1) Because God had preserved him in the ark (Jewish commentators).

(2) Because if Ham had been mentioned all his other sons would have been implicated (Pererius, Lange).

(3) Because the sin of Ham was comparatively trifling (Bohlen).

For the cursing of Canaan instead of Ham, it has been urged—

(1) That he was Ham's youngest son, as Ham was Noah's (Hoffman and Delitzsch); surely a very insufficient reason for God cursing any one!

(2) That he was the real perpetrator of the crime (Aben Ezra, Procopius, Poole, Jamieson, Lewis, &c.).

(3) That thereby the greatness of Ham's sin was evinced (Calvin).

(4) That Canaan was already walking in the steps of his father's impiety (Ambrose, Mercerus, Keil).

(5) That Noah foresaw that the Canaanites would abundantly deserve this visitation (Calvin, Wordsworth, Murphy, Kalisch, Lange).

We incline to think the truth lies in the last three reasons. A servant of servants. A Hebraism for the superlative degree; cf. "King of kings, "holy of holies, "the song of songs". I.e. "the last even among servants" (Calvin); "a servant reduced to the lowest degree of bondage and degradation" (Bush); "vilissima servituts pressus" (Sol. Glass); "a most base and vile servant" (Ainsworth); "a working servant" (Chaldee); "the lowest of slaves" (Keil); παῖς οἰκἑτης (LXX.), which "conveys the notion of permanent hereditary servitude" (Kalisch). Keil, Hengstenberg, and Wordsworth see an allusion to this condition in the name Canaan (q.v; supra), which, however, Lange doubts. Shall he be to his brethren. A prophecy which was afterwards abundantly fulfilled, the Canaanites in the time of Joshua having been partly exterminated and partly reduced to the lowest form of slavery by the Israelites who belonged to the family of Shem (Joshua 9:23), those that remained being subsequently reduced by Solomon (1 Kings 9:20, 1 Kings 9:21); while the Phenicians, along with the Carthaginians and Egyptians, who all belonged to the family of Canaan, were subjected by the Japhetic Persians, Macedonians, and Romans (Keil).

Genesis 9:26

And he said—not "Blessed of Jehovah, my God, be Shem" (Jamieson), as might have been anticipated (this, equally with the omission of Ham's name, lifts the entire patriarchal utterance out of the region of mere personal feeling), but—Blessed—בָּרוּךְ when applied to God signifies an ascription of praise (cf. Psalms 144:15; Ephesians 1:3); when applied to man, an invocation of good (cf. Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:20; Psalms 128:1; Hebrews 7:6)—be the Lord God—literally, Jehovah, Elohim of Shem (cf. Genesis 24:27); Jehovah being the proper personal name of God, of whom it is predicated that he is the Elohim of Shem; equivalent to a statement not simply that Shem should enjoy "a rare and transcendent," "Divine or heavenly," blessing (Calvin), or "a most abundant blessing, reaching its highest point in the promised Seed" (Luther); but that Jehovah, the one living and true God, should be his God, and that the knowledge and practice of the true religion should continue among his descendants, with, perhaps, a hint that the promised Seed should spring from his loins (OEeolampadius, Willet, Murphy, Keil, &c.)—of Shem. In the name Shem (name, renown) there may lie an allusion to the spiritual exaltation and advancement of the Semitic nations (vide Genesis 5:32). And Canaan shall be his servant. לָמוֹ= לָהֶס (Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic), i.e. the two brothers (Delitzsch), their descendants (Knobel, Keil), Shem and Jehovah (Bush); or more probably—לוֹ, as a collective singular, i.e. Shem, including his descendants (LXX; αὐτοῦ; Kalisch, Lange, Murphy).

Genesis 9:27

God. Elohim. If Genesis 9:18-27 are Jehovistic (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso, et alii), why Elohim? Is this a proof that the Jehovistic document was revised by the Elohistic author, as the presence of Jehovah in any so-called Elohistic section is regarded as an interpolation by the supplementer? To obviate this inference Davidson assigns Genesis 9:20-27 to his redactor. But the change of name is sufficiently explained when we remember that "Jehovah, as such, never was the God of Japheth's descendants, and that the expression would have been as manifestly improper if applied to him as it is in its proper place applied to Shem". Shall enlarge Japheth. יַפְתְּ לְיֶפֶת; literally, shall enlarge or make room for the one that spreads abroad; or, "may God concede an ample space to Japheth" (Gesenius). "Wide let God make it for Japheth" (Keil). "God give enlargement to Japheth" (Lange). So LXX; Vulgate, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic. The words form a paronomasia, both the verb and the noun being connected with the root פָתָה, to spread abroad; Hiph; to cause to lie open, hence to make room for,—and refer to the widespread diffusion and remarkable prosperity of the Japhetic nations. The familiar interpretation which renders "God will persuade Japheth, the persuadable," i.e. incline his heart by the gospel so that he may dwell in the tents of Shem (Junins, Vatablus, Calvin, Willet, Ainsworth), is discredited by the facts

(1) that the verb never means to persuade, except in a bad sense (cf. 1 Kings 22:20), and

(2) that in this sense it is never followed by לְ, but always by the accusative. The fulfillment of the prophecy is apparent from the circumstance that "praeter Europam (εὐρωìκη—wide, extensive) "maximam Asiae pattern, totum demique novum orbem, veluti immensae maguitudinis auctarium, Japheto posterique ejus in perpetuam possessionem obtigisse" (Fuller, ' Sac. Miscel; lib. 2. c. 4, quoted by Glass); cf. Genesis 10:2-5, in which Japheth is given as the progenitor of fourteen peoples, to which are added the inhabitants of the lands washed by the sea. The expansive power of Japheth "refem not only to the territory and the multitude of the Japhethites, but also to their intellectual and active faculties. The metaphysics of the Hindoos, the philosophy of the Greeks, the military prowess of the Romans, and the modern science and civilization of the world are due to the race of Japheth" (Murphy). And he—not Elohim (Philo; Theodoret, Onkelos, Dathe, Baumgarten, et alii), which

(1) substantially repeats the blessing already given to Shem, and

(2) would introduce an allusion to the superiority of Shem's blessing in what the context requires should be an unrestricted benediction of Japheth; but Japheth (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Lange, Kaliseh, Murphy, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary')—shall dwell. יִשְׁכַן, from שָׁכַן, to dwell; used of God inhabiting the heavens (Isaiah 57:15), dwelling in the bush (Deuteronomy 30:16), residing, or causing his name to dwell, in the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 12:11); hence supposed to favor the idea that Elohim is the subject; but it was as Jehovah (not Elohim) that God abode between the cherubim (Exodus 40:34). In the tents of Shem. Not the tents of celebrity (Gesenius, Vater, Michaelis, De Wette, Knobel), but the tents of the Shemitic races, with allusion not to their subjugation by the Japhethites (Clericus, Von Bohlen, Bochart), which would not be in keeping with the former blessing pronounced upon them (Murphy), but to their subsequent contiguity to, and even commingling with, but especially to their participation in the religious privileges of, the Shemites (the Fathers, Targum Jonathan, Hisronymus, Calvin, Keil, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy, Candlish). The fulfillment of the prophecy is too obvious to call for illustration. And Canaan shall be his servant.

Genesis 9:28, Genesis 9:29

And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. I.e. to the fifty-eighth year of the life of Abram, and was thus in all probability a witness of the building of the tower of Babel, and of the consequent dispersion of mankind. And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died. Tuch, Bleek, and Colenso connect these verses with Genesis 9:17, as the proper continuation of the Elohist's work.


Genesis 9:20-29

The future unveiled.

I. A PAGE FROM HUMAN HISTORY. The prominent figure an old man—always an object of interest, as one who has passed through life's vicissitudes, and worthy of peculiar honor, especially if found walking in the paths of righteousness and peace; an old saint who had long been distinguished for the elevation of his piety, who had long maintained his fidelity to God in the midst of evil times, who had just enjoyed a special deliverance at the hand of God, and who up to the period referred to in our text had brought neither stain upon his piety nor cloud upon his name; the second head of the human family, and in a manner also the second head of the Church of God; an old disciple, who probably had seen Seth, the son of Adam, and walked with Enoch, and spoken with Methuselah, and who lived, as the Scripture tells us, to the days of Abram; clearly one of the most distinguished figures that, looking back, one is able to detect upon the canvas of time. Well, in connection with this venerable patriarch we learn—

1. That he engaged in a highly honorable occupation.

(1) It was to his credit that he had an occupation. Being an old man, he might have reasoned that his working days were done, and that the evening of life might as well be spent in leisure and meditation. Having three stalwart sons, he might have deemed it proper to look to them for aid in his declining years. And knowing himself to be an object of Heaven's peculiar care, he might have trusted God would feed him without his working, since he had saved him without his asking. But from all these temptations—to idleness, to dependence, to presumption—Noah was delivered, and preferred; as all good Christians should do, to labor to the last, working while it is called today, to depend upon themselves rather than their friends and neighbors, and to expect God's assistance rather when they try to help themselves than when they leave it all to him. Then,

(2) The calling he engaged in was an honest one. He was a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard (vide Exposition on vine cultivation). God's people should be careful in selecting honest trades and professions for themselves and their children (Romans 12:17). No social status or public estimation, or profitable returns can render that employment honorable which, either in its nature or in the manner of its carrying or, violates the law of God; while that calling has a special glory in itself and a special value in the sight of Heaven which, however humble and unremunerative, respects the rights of men and the rules of God.

2. That he indulged in a perfectly legitimate gratification. "He drank of the wine." There was nothing wrong in Noah eating of the ripe grapes which grew upon his vines, or drinking of their juice when transformed into wine (cf. Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:7). The sinfulness of making fermented liquors cannot be established so long as fermentation is a natural process for the preservation of the produce of the grape, and Scripture, in one set of passages, speaks of its beneficial influence upon man's physical system (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15; Proverbs 31:6; 1 Timothy 5:23), and God himself employs it as a symbol of the highest and choicest blessings, both temporal and spiritual (Genesis 27:28, Genesis 27:37; Proverbs 9:2; Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 26:28, Matthew 26:29), and Christ made it at the marriage feast of Cana (John 2:9, John 2:10). Nor is the drinking of wines and other fermented liquors condemned in Scripture as a violation of the law of God. That there are special seasons when abstinence from this as well as other gratifications of a physical kind is a duty (cf. Le Genesis 10:9; Judges 13:4, Judges 13:14; Ezekiel 44:21; Daniel 1:5, Daniel 1:8, Daniel 1:16; Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 10:28), and that it is competent to any Christian, for the sake of Iris weaker brethren, or as a means of advancing his own spiritual life, or for the glory of God, to renounce his liberty in respect of drinks, no intelligent person will doubt. But that total abstinence is imperatively required of every one is neither asserted in Scripture nor was it taught by the example of Christ (Matthew 11:19), and to enforce it upon Christian men as a term of communion is to impose on them a yoke of bondage which Christ has not sanctioned, and to supplant Christian liberty by bodily asceticism.

3. That he fell beneath a pitifully sad humiliation.

(1) He drank to the extent of intoxication. Whatever extenuations may be offered for the action of the patriarch, it cannot be regarded in any other light than a sin; Considering the age he had come to, the experience he had passed through, the position which he occupied as the head of the race and the father of the Church, he ought to have been specially upon his guard. While permitting man a moderate indulgence in the fruit of the vine, the word of God especially condemns the sin of drunkenness (cf. Proverbs 23:20; Isaiah 5:11, Isaiah 5:22; Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; 1Co 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8).

(2) His immodesty. The veil of modesty in which God designs that every sinful human being should be wrapped should be jealously guarded from infringement by any action either of ourselves or others.


1. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). Remember Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Peter.

2. "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). There is scarcely a sin to which intoxication may not lead; there is no infallible cure for drunkenness but being filled with the Spirit.

3. "Be sure thy sin will find thee out" (Numbers 32:23). "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known."

II. A REVELATION OF HUMAN CHARACTER. Oil the threshold of the new world, like the Lord Jesus Christ in the opening of the gospel dispensation (Luke 2:35), the patriarch Noah appears to have been set for the fall and rising again of many, and for a sign to be spoken against that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed. All unconsciously to him his vine-planting and wine-drinking become the occasion of unveiling the different characters of his sons in respect of—

1. Filial piety, which Shem and Japheth remarkably displayed, but of which Ham, the youngest son, appears to have been destitute. There was nothing sinful in Ham's having witnessed what should never have been exposed to view, and there is no reason to credit any of the idle rabbinical legends which allege that Ham perpetrated a particular outrage upon his father; but Ham was manifestly wanting in that filial reverence and honor which were due to his aged parent, in that he gazed with delight upon the melancholy spectacle of his father's shame- in singular contrast to the respectful and modest behavior of Shem and Japheth, who "went with their faces backward," so that "they saw not their father's nakedness."

2. Tender charity. In addition to the mocking eye which gloated over the patriarch's infirmity, there was present in the heart of Ham an evil and malicious spirit, which led him to inflict another and a severer indignity upon his father's fame. The faults of even bad men are required by religion to be covered up rather than paraded in public view. Much more the indiscretions, failings, and sins of good men. Most of all the faults of a father. But, alas, instead of sorrowing for his father's overthrow, Ham obviously took pleasure in it; instead of charitably trying to excuse the old man, nay, without even waiting to ascertain whether an explanation of his conduct might be possible, he appears to have put the worst construction on it; instead of doing what he could to hide his father's sin and shame, he rushes forth and makes it known to his brothers. But these brothers, with another spirit, without offering any apology for their father's error, perhaps instinctively perceiving it to be altogether unjustifiable, take the first loose garment they can find, and, with a beautiful modesty as well as a becoming piety, casting it around their shoulders, enter their father's presence with their faces backward, and cover up his prostrate form. Let the incident remind us—

(1) That if nothing can extenuate a father's falling into sin, much more can nothing justify a son for failing in respect towards his father.

(2) That it is a sure sign of depravity in a child when he mocks at a parent's infirmities and publishes a parent's faults.

(3) That filial piety ever seeks to extenuate and to hide rather than to aggravate and blaze abroad a parent's weaknesses and sins.

(4) That children in the same family may be distinguished by widely different dispositions.

(5) That a son may have pious parents and experience many providential mercies for their sakes, and yet be at heart a child of the devil.

(6) That that which makes one son differ from another in the same family is Divine grace; and

(7) that the characters of children, and of men in general, are oftentimes revealed at the most unexpected times, and by the most improbable events.

III. A DISCLOSURE OF HUMAN DESTINY. Awaking from his wine, the patriarch became aware of what had taken place. Discerning in the conduct of his sons an indication of divergence in their characters, recognizing in their different characters a repetition of what had taken place at the commencement of the first era of the world's history, viz; the division of mankind into a holy and a wicked line, foreseeing also, through the help of inspiration, the development of the world's population into three different tribes or races, he foretells, acting in all under the Spirit's guidance, the future destinies that should await them. His utterance takes the form of a prediction, in which he declares—

1. The degradation of Canaan. "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren.

(1) So far as Ham was concerned this judgment was severe, as being imposed upon his youngest and probably his best beloved son; appropriate—he for whose sake it had been inflicted having been his father's youngest son; merciful, as falling not on all his race, but only upon one son and his descendants. N.B.—God's judgments upon sinful men are always proportioned in severity to the guilt which brings them, adjusted to the natures of the sins for which they come, and mixed with mercy in the experience of the persons on whom they fall.

(2) So far as Canaan was concerned the doom of servitude was sovereignty imposed. There is no evidence that Canaan was at all connected with the incident that happened in his grandfather's tent. That the penalty of his father's offence was made to fall on him of all his father's sons was in virtue of that high prerogative which belongs to God alone of assigning to men and nations their lots on earth (cf. Psalms 75:7; Isaiah 41:2; Daniel 5:19; Daniel 4:35; Acts 17:26). Richly merited. Whether Canaan had begun by this time to display any of the dispositions of his father cannot certainly be known; but in after years, when the prophecy was nearing its accomplishment, it is well known that the peculiar sins for which the Canaanites were destroyed or subjected to bondage were allied to those which are referred to in the text (vide Le Genesis 18:27). Exactly fulfilled by the subjugation of the land of Canaan under Joshua and David, though here it should be noted that the enslavement of the African Negro, who, though a Hamite, is not a Canaanite, was a daring defiance of those limits within which the supreme Judge had confined the sentence pronounced upon the Hamite race. Mercifully cancelled by the later promise which was given to Abraharh, and is now fulfilled in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ—of a seed-in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed (Genesis 22:18).

2. The exaltation of Shem. "Blessed be Jehovah, the Elohim of Shem," &c; in which description was the promise of a threefold exaltation.

(1) To supremacy in the Church, as being possessed of the knowledge of the true religion, as being enriched with the fullness of blessing that is in Jehovah Elohim, as being the Divinely-appointed medium through which the first promise of the woman's seed was to be fulfilled, and he was to come whose name should be above every name.

(2) To dominion in the world. In virtue of the religious ascendancy conferred upon him, Shem was to be possessed of power to influence other nations for good, and in particular to receive into his service, for education as well as for assistance, the descendants of Canaan.

(3) To renown throughout all time. As much as this perhaps is hinted at in the name Shem; and to this day the glory which encircled the Shemitie nations of antiquity has not faded, but continues to shine down the centuries with undiminished luster.

3. The enlargement of Japheth. "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant."

A promise of—

1. Territorial expansion. While the Shemite tribes should remain in a manner concentrated in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, the Japhethites should spread themselves abroad westward as the pioneers of civilization.

2. Spiritual enrichment, by being brought ultimately to share in the religious privileges and blessings of the Shemites—a prediction which has been abundantly fulfilled by the admission of the Gentiles to the Christian Church.

3. Civilizing influence. As Canaan was subjected to Shem in order, while he served, to be instructed in the faith of his master, so does he seem to have been placed beneath the sway of Japheth, that Japheth might lead him forth to a participation of the peculiar blessings which he has been commissioned to bestow upon the other nations of the earth.


Genesis 9:18-29

The threefold distribution of the human race

—into the Shemitic, Hamitic, and Japhetic families. The fall of Noah was through wine; not, indeed, a forbidden product of the earth, but, like the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, representing a tremendous responsibility.

I. THE FERTILITY OF SIN. It was out of drunkenness that the widespread curse of the Hamitic nations came forth. And the drunkenness is closely connected with other sins—

(1) shameful degradation both of father and son,

(2) alienation of brethren, and

(3) human slavery.

What a picture of the forthcoming results of intemperance and self-indulgence!

II. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE BLESSING AND THE CURSE IN THEIR WORKING OUT. Noah's prediction of the blessing on Shem and Japheth and the curse upon Ham may be taken as an outline of the religious history of the world.

1. The Shemitic races are the source of religious light to the rest. "Blessed be the Lord God of Slain." "Jehovah," the Shemitic revelation, is the foundation of all other.

2. The Japhetic races are the great colonizers and populators of the world, overflowing their own boundaries, dwelling in the tents of Shem, both as inquirers after Shemitic light and in friendly co-operation with Shemitic civilization.

3. The Hamitic races are servants of servants unto their brethren, partly by their degradation, but partly also by their achievements. The Phoenician, Assyrian, Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Canaanitish races, although by no means always in a lower political state than the rest of the world, have yet been subdued by Japhetic and Shemitic conquerors, and handed down their wealth and acquirements to the Northern, Western, and Eastern world.

III. THE RENOVATION OF THE EARTH UNDER THE NEW COVENANT. After the Flood Noah lived the half-week of centuries, and thus laid firmly the foundations of a new earth. Yet, prolonged as was that life of him who had "found grace in the eyes of the Lord," it came to an end at last. He died. The one became the three.

1. The blessing handed on. The type of rest and comfort was spread through the redeemed earth. And from henceforth we have to deal not with the small beginnings of the rescued race, but with the vast multitude of human beings.

2. New sphere of trial. Under the light of the new covenant again the new race were placed upon their trial, that again the redeeming mercy of him who willeth not the death of his creatures may be made manifest in the midst of the teeming earth, with its threefold humanity, spreading eastward, westward, northward, and southward.—R.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/genesis-9.html. 1897.
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